Red Garland & John Coltrane – Dig It! – Prestige PRS-31592 (RVG series) 1957-1958, 33:48 ***** [Distr. by Concord Records]:
(Red Garland, piano; John Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Donald Byrd, trumpet; George Joyner, bass; Paul Chambers, bass; Arthur Taylor, drums)
The caliber of artists on this album speaks for itself, but of course the unheard “star” on the album is engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Today, many engineers fill album production with overwhelming noise, either to achieve the famous “wall of sound”, or to mask the musician’s inability to play with massive distortion. Van Gelder’s engineering is notable for the space is it gives each master musician, each instrument, and ultimately each note, to resonate separately, and come harmoniously together. [And whether mono – as this one – or stereo!…Ed.]
The album, made up of three separate sessions recorded in 1957-1958, hits the ground running with Billie’s Bounce, which starts with the band in revelry until Coltrane slows down the song at the 2:30 mark for a more seductive melody. At 7:30 bassist George Joyner has a wonderful solo which illustrates, in addition to his talent, the qualities of Van Gelder’s production and re-mastering. The full sound and reverberation of each note Joyner plays rings out into an open space, giving Joyner room to explore.
Crazy Rhythm, the second track, features a swirling melody by Garland, which forms a wonderful counterpoint to a bass solo played with a bow by Paul Chambers. Arthur Taylor, on drums, comes in around 3:10 soloing in fits and starts.
The best track on the album is the fourth and final track, Lazy Mae. The most bluesy track on the album, is begins with a long exposition by Garland. Garland starts with a long, climbing melody, before shifting into more of a blues sound. The chiming sound of the higher notes on Garland’s piano make a magical, cinematic sound. Van Gelder’s production makes the notes ring and echo as if off the walls of the recording studio. Around 4:30 Garland unwinds the melody and explores it, until at around the seven minute mark, he plays the climbing exposition once more. At around 11:00, Joyner slows down the entire ensemble for another tremendous bass solo.
It would be difficult to record a bad album with Red Garland, Donald Byrd, and John Coltrane. Dig It! takes these ingredients and adds not an only a fantastic rhythm section, but the masterful production of Van Gelder, in order to produce a great album.
TrackList: Billie’s Bounce, Crazy Rhythm, CTA, Lazy Mae
– Ethan Krow